The headline is dramatic. “Former campaign staffer sues Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brenda Siegel for unpaid wages, expenses.” Wow, sounds serious.
Well, it’s not. In fact, the story is so bereft of substance that it makes you wonder how it got published at all.
For starters, the “former campaign staffer,” Bryan Parks, worked for the Siegel campaign for less than a month. The amount of money in question is less than $600.
Six hundred dollars.
Reporter Sarah Mearhoff, who will not be submitting this shitball for any journalism prizes, gives over the first six paragraphs to Parks’ account, his disillusionment with the candidate, his insistence that it’s not about the money, and how he waited until after the election to file his suit “so as not to appear politically motivated.”
And only then, after Parks is given all that space, do we get Siegel’s response: “No, I don’t owe him any money. He is completely paid up.”
Well, there you go, right? Game, set, match, right?
Instead, we get a blow-by-blow account of this nothingburger that, if anything, puts Parks in a worse light. He quit the Siegel campaign on October 3. His first communication about his claim was on October 20 — and he demanded a response within two days.
Which is ridiculous in any context, but even more so when you’re talking about the closing days of a campaign. Candidates and staffers have far too much on their plates to meet such an absurd deadline.
To their credit, the campaign did respond on October 22, offering Parks $250 for one week of work on Siegel’s advance team. Parks got the money on November 3 which, again, is pretty damn timely for an organization under absolute pressure. But he wasn’t happy with the amount or the delay.
On Sunday, the Siegel campaign has sent him a $283 check to cover expenses he incurred on the job. According to Siegel, that’s all Parks was entitled to. Parks sniffs that he hasn’t received it yet. Well, la-di-da. The mail isn’t instantaneous, you know.
Mearhoff gives Parks the opportunity to disparage Siegel’s organizational skill and leadership style. Indeed, she gives Parks far more space than his picayune complaint deserved. After all of that, Siegel is again given the floor to say Parks has been paid everything he owes, and she wondered why Parks is going to court without first approaching the campaign.
Above all that, it’s not even $600 that’s in dispute. It’s $583, and that includes the $283 reimbursement sent by Siegel. So now we’re talking $300. And it’s entirely his word that he’s entitled to the money, which Siegel denies four separate times.
Is there a story here? Really?
Mearhoff gives the knife a big ol’ twist in the last paragraph, which tries to make the point that this minor dispute disqualifies Siegel to be governor. I wish I was kidding, but I’m not.
The position of governor is often equated to the role as CEO of state government, responsible for employing hundreds of state employees. Asked on Tuesday how he feels his pay dispute reflects Siegel’s ability to perform as governor, he said, “I know she wouldn’t be able to.”
The premise of her question is flawed. For one thing, and why do I have to explain this, the governor doesn’t make payroll or write checks. The governor doesn’t scrutinize every expense or personally take care of any disputes. Second, a candidate in the heat of a campaign doesn’t attend to small amounts of money; she has people for that, so she can spend her time being a candidate. Third, we’re talking about a “he said, she said” over a few hundred bucks in the homestretch of a campaign! Good God, a lot of campaign bills don’t get paid that quickly.
It’s okay to report on a small-claims lawsuit against a political campaign, but it’s preposterous to give it more than a few paragraphs. Don’t treat it like a big fat scoop or a disqualifying scandal. It’s not. It’s nothing.
I don’t know why Mearhoff spent so much time and effort on this, and I don’t know why her editors allowed it to be published. It’s stupid, and it’s grossly unfair to Siegel.